Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thought for the Day

I say that theology and poetry may be said to be almost one thing when the subject is the same. I say further that theology is nothing else than a piece of God's poetry. What other thing is it than poetic fiction in Scripture when Christ says that He is now a lion, and now a lamb, and now a serpent, and then a dragon, and then a rock, and when He speaks in many other ways, to recount all of which would be tedious? What else do the words of the Saviour in the gospels contain if not a meaning different from the plain sense, a way of speaking which we call by the common term allegory? It then clearly appears not only that poetry is theology, but that theology is poetry. Even if my own words deserve little faith in so great a matter I shall not be disturbed. Believe Aristotle, rather, a most worthy authority for matters of weight, who affirms that he has found that poets are the first theologians. Let this be enough on this subject, and let us turn to showing why to poets alone, among all [persons] of knowledge, the honor of the laurel crown has been granted.

-Giovanni Boccaccio, Life of Dante (Hesperus Press, 2002), p. 52-53


Blogger Brian Campbell said...

If the seers and prophets are the poets of religion, the theologians are its literary critics. Many of those are dry exegetes who talk about rather than poetically express.

He obviously means theology in its broadest sense...

1:40 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Yes, I would agree that Boccaccio meant "theology" in a larger sense than we do today--the Church was an all-consuming entity in those days. To pose poetry as a way that is not "against" theology but rather a co-equal part of theology is itself, an extravagant (and for its time) dangerous claim.

I quoted Boccaccio here for several reasons, among them that I am enjoying his "biography" of Dante--written as if by Clifford Irving--and because I am obsessed with the notion that poetry is prayer.

I suppose my underlying anxiety is that if poetry isn't prayer, perhaps I am wasting my time!

11:10 AM  

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